Month: May 2022

Lucy’s Journey

Lucy’s Journey

Fists of rage have stained her story,
but she lets the intervention of others help her anger

Lucy was angry. She left another hole in the wall of her room at ACH’s Pat O’Neal Youth Emergency Shelter. This wasn’t the first time she decorated her walls with the emotions that raged within her. 

Lucy came in full of anger, had difficulty stabilizing her emotions, and was terrified of attending school. She had little care for herself and no regard for others. At her worst, Lucy was suicidal.

This was also not the first time the ACH team greeted Lucy through the Youth Emergency Shelter doors. Though the goal is not for youth to have to return to the Shelter, we are grateful to offer a safe and familiar place where youth like Lucy can return.

The only shelter of its kind in Tarrant County

The Youth Emergency Shelter steps in at a time of crisis in a youth’s life to offer safety and identify the best place for them to call home. Immediately, a team assembles around each youth that enters our doors. Our team is dedicated to quickly returning youth to their family if that is a safe option and if not, finding the best solution within 90 days. When you think about the trauma Lucy is walking in with, 90 days is not a realistic time to expect to see the deep healing she needs. All we can do is meet her where she’s at, help her cope with her trauma, and get her to a safe place to heal.

Recovering from significant trauma, hurt, and pain is a process that our team not only understands but embraces. Meeting each child directly in the dark place they find themselves in is the heart of what our Youth Emergency Shelter Program does. The process is hardly smooth, often emotional, but covered in intentional, intensive, and active interceding on behalf of each youth.

Stephen Parker, Youth Emergency Shelter Program Manager, shares “We have seen incremental growth in her in such a short amount of time.”

Fort Worth ISD assigns teachers to ACH's on-campus classroom

Youth that enter the Shelter are usually significantly behind in school. Our team works to help them get caught up. Lucy’s residential therapist, Jenny, recalls Lucy refusing to do anything related to school. She slowly progressed to actually going to school, and now the team sees her engaging with school and doing homework.

When kids feel supported, cared for, and valued, they’re willing to try. Their minds are open to the hopeful possibilities that they could never fathom for themselves. Lucy realizes that what she does matters and there is someone that cares about how she is doing.

Stephen shares that building upon small success has been their goal with Lucy. Celebrating the moment when a wall wasn’t punched to release an emotion, acknowledging when she respectfully voices her opinions, and letting her voice be heard while leaning into teaching moments with her have been key.

Lucy is not afraid of school anymore. She sees its value because she’s realizing her own value. She’s not afraid to try, because she’s starting to hope for her future. When you show a child their value, that changes everything.

Lucy shares her experience at the shelter, “I now have hope and look forward to having a future that excites me. The staff and kids here at the shelter have assisted me with gaining self-worth and coping skills.”

"I now have hope and look forward to having a future that excites me."


Lucy may still get upset and managing the way she responds in her anger may always remain, but the walls of her room no longer reflect the remnants of her raging fists. They are decorated in the colors of her youth – paintings, drawings, her art. They reflect the depths of her heart, both the joys and the pains.

*Names changed to protect privacy

About the Pat O'Neal Youth Emergency Shelter

The Shelter is a 24/7 residential-based program that offers homeless, runaway, throwaway and trafficked youth, ages 10-17, emergency housing and care while ACH works to connect them with appropriate social services, reunite them with their families, or find alternative safe and supportive long-term living arrangements.

The United States Department of Homeland Security said “ACH has been an invaluable partner in the fight against human trafficking. ACH faithfully provides a place where the victim’s safety, well-being, and immediate needs can be met and further assists in the transition to safe and stable housing.

At an average cost per child of $258 per night, ACH is facing a projected funding gap for the Shelter of $579,366. Your donations can help children find what may be the first safe and stable sanctuary with protective adult support in their young lives.

Ybanez Family

"It Never Happens This Way"

A touching story of adoption with a unique twist. With open and eager hearts, the Ybanez Family remains faithful to the process and continues to place each child’s needs above their own desires.

College sweethearts, Matt and Aimee, have always dreamed about adoption. “It’s always been a part of our family plan,” Aimee shares. Fifteen years into their marriage and two biological children later, it was time they got serious about it. Their kids were now at the age to understand what adoption is and be a part of the discussion. This would be a family decision and their girls, Keira and Micah “were enthusiastically on board!”

The Ybanez family jumped right into the adoption process. After extensive research, they found ACH Child and Family Services and loved that we work locally with the Department of Family Protective Services to care for children in the community.

They were showered in support from the very beginning. “Going into it, we were a little overwhelmed with the volume of items to complete,” said Aimee, “but ACH was great about keeping it organized and providing us options.” In just 8 weeks from the start of their training, they were officially licensed for matched adoption!

ACH is there, every step of the way

Lizbeth Bryant, Foster Care and Adoption Supervisor, was happy to walk this journey with Matt, Aimee, and their girls. She was ready to “fill their toolbelt” with all they’d need throughout this process – support groups, training classes, and frequent check-ins.

Finally licensed, the Ybanez family did not hold back. They eagerly threw themselves into every part of the adoption process, saying “yes” as a family and ready to provide a child a safe home.

They agreed to help children that needed temporary respite care as they waited to be matched with a child to adopt. Short-term respite foster care is when one family temporarily cares for another family’s foster children for various reasons. The Ybanez Family opened their home and hearts to many children. They never held back the love and care they had to offer a child in need. Matt and Aimee recall “accepting every respite request that came through – from an infant in double leg casts all the way up to a 12-year-old girl who stayed with us for almost two weeks.”

It was during this time of welcoming many children in and out of their home that they met Jenny.* After a trial run and a short weekend stay, they became the ‘go-to’ respite family for Jenny. During this time, Matt, Aimee, Keira, and Micah fell in love with Jenny.

From "matched adoption" to "foster to adopt"

Jenny was a 3-year-old girl whose case was still in process, and a safe permanent placement was still being determined for her. At the time, Jenny was living with a foster family that would later decide they would not be able to adopt her. The care team that surrounded Jenny then needed to search for a new foster family to take her in for the remainder of her case who could also be an adoption possibility.

Knowing Jenny would be in a safe and loving environment is all they truly sought.

Since the Ybanez family had already begun building a relationship with Jenny during multiple respite stays, they were being considered as a possible foster family and adoption match. First, the Ybanez family needed to change their adoption licensing from “match adoption” to also include “foster to adopt”. This was a major decision. Matt and Aimee never imagined they would foster, yet they had no doubts. They loved Jenny and were ready to welcome her into their family. The Ybanez family moved forward with the licensing change so they could become Jenny’s foster care family with the hope and possibility of adopting her.

It was soon looking like the decision on Jenny’s case would be that her biological mother’s rights were going to be terminated. The hearing was in just two weeks and the Ybanez family would foster Jenny during that time. Matt, Aimee, Keira, and Micah would go about their days and welcome Jenny with this anticipated plan in mind.

Yet the process continued. Meetings got delayed, extensions were given, and the timing is usually never as you’d expect. Jenny’s biological mother was given an extension in hopes of family reunification. In this new limbo, Jenny stayed with the Ybanez family for months while her case continued, only now the Ybanez family felt a little unsure how to prepare for the unknown outcome.

Protecting Children and Preserving Families

The Ybanez family remained supportive of Jenny’s biological mother throughout the entire process. Knowing Jenny would be in a safe and loving environment is all they truly sought. As they cared for Jenny, ACH remained there to offer the Ybanez family support and guidance along the way. They were faced to now navigate such conflicting emotions. They had such a deep desire to permanently bring Jenny home and knew the warm and tender care they would offer her.

At the same time, they had such a softness and hope for Jenny’s mom and the reunited family they could be. They never ceased to maintain Jenny’s best interest at the heart of each decision, no matter how joyful or painful it may be. 

How can you truly prepare for the unexpected? Being present and available is sometimes all you can do. Throughout this time, Aimee says, “Before we partnered with ACH we truly did not understand how much support and partnership there is, which is such a blessing. There is no shortage of support at ACH.” The Ybanez family felt more prepared to meet Jenny in her situation and care not only for Jenny but for their entire family. Jenny’s biological mother’s rights were soon reinstated and she was granted permanency. The best home now for Jenny was being reunited with her mom. 

It's what's best for the child that's important

The Ybanez family learned to walk not only with open hearts but open hands as well. While they never wavered from putting the needs of the child first, they fully realize how precious it is to preserve families. They have uniquely experienced the delight and heartache that comes with living so fiercely and boldly in love.

"There is no shortage of support at ACH."

-- Aimee Ybanez

ACH’s Lizbeth has seen their faithfulness to Jenny and is grateful to walk alongside the Ybanez family through this emotional journey. They may not have been able to welcome Jenny permanently into their home, but their hearts were open to far more than they thought capable.

Thanks to their eldest, Keira, they have pursued and maintained contact with Jenny and her mother. Aimee confesses, “honestly, we may never have gathered the strength to reach out that first time after she’d gone home if it hadn’t been for Keira.” Keira wanted to submit her drawing of Jenny into an art contest but wanted to ask her mom for permission first. Aimee pushed through her own grief to reach out.

“At first, we had no idea what an ongoing relationship with Jenny or her mom was supposed to look like. Perhaps we still don’t – there’s no template for it, but we’re doing our best to figure it out as we go.” They find themselves a part of something greater than themselves and have rallied behind a mom and joined her team to care for her sweet daughter.

Aimee shares, “We had never imagined we would foster, let alone see a child go back to her biological mom, and yet, there is something pretty amazing that happens when you can be a part of a larger support system for both child and parent.”

The Ybanez family is still patiently waiting to permanently welcome home a fifth member of their family. They remain hopeful and excited for when that day comes. 


*Name changed to protect privacy.

Foster Care and Adoption

Every year hundreds of children in our area are removed from their biological caregivers due to abuse or neglect. And every year ACH Child and Family Services place many of them into temporary foster care with kind and compassionate adults who have been thoroughly vetted and trained. When a child comes to us, an ACH foster and adoption specialist creates and implements an individualized Plan of Service, essentially a guide for the child’s anticipated service needs. Our professionals meet with each child at least once a month, more frequently as required. Learn more about ACH’s Foster Care and Adoption Program.

Harrison Family

Creating Order Out of Chaos

When faced with caring for a child with serious emotional and behavioral needs, Deanna and Trent didn’t just accept the unexpected for their family – they are grateful they embraced it with grace, patience, and humility.

The Harrisons journey with Micah truly began when they adopted in 2017. Deanna was a part of a foster family support group when she first met 2-year-old Micah and his then adoptive mother. Deanna and her husband Trent established and maintained a relationship with Micah and his mom. They cared for one another’s kids and arranged play dates with other families in the support group. Deanna didn’t know the details of their lives; she just saw a single mother and offered her support to Micah. In addition to caring for others, Deanna was mindful to protect the new dynamic of her own family in meeting the needs of her children, Kaleena, Jeremiah, Samuel, and Izzy.

During the height of the pandemic, Micah’s family went into recluse mode. Deanna would not see Micah or his family for two years. She would later find out that Micah was back in foster care. His mom had reached out to Deanna asking if her family would consider caring for Micah while she was being investigated by Child Protective Services. The Harrisons were under the impression it would be a quick, simple case, and a temporary stay for Micah. Deanna fully believed he would return home soon.

Regardless of the situation, they were willing and ready to step in and care for Micah. It wasn’t long before they were informed of the specifics of the case and that Micah’s home life was much, much worse than they could have known. The Harrisons realized this would not be temporary. Micah was in desperate need of a new home; a safe, nurturing, and loving home.

Micah was in desperate need of a new home; a safe, nurturing, and loving home.

Each step into the unknown was a new step of faith.

Before he moved into the Harrison’s home, Micah had been in and out of residential treatment centers, which provide intensive help for youth with serious emotional and behavioral needs. He had been in different foster homes and was hospitalized. No one could handle his behavior. The behavior of children in the foster system is evaluated to identify the level of care and support they may need. Micah was considered to be at the therapeutic level, which identifies the most vulnerable of children at the highest level of needed care and attention. He exhibited “feral” qualities as Deanna would describe. She confessed, “On paper, we would have never taken Micah in. But especially since we knew him, we knew we had to have him.”

"But especially since we knew him, we knew we had to have him."

Deanna Harrison
Micah, 7 years old

Micah was impulsive. Now at 7 years old, he acted destructively simply because he wanted to see what would happen. He was never taught what was appropriate behavior and what was inappropriate. Arguably, he learned that aggressive behavior was good and sometimes even encouraged. Micah would dump the contents of a stranger’s purse to the ground, rip down paintings from the wall, and stand on tables, all because he felt like it. It wasn’t vindicative, it wasn’t malicious, he just didn’t know any better. He had also previously experienced discipline in extremes, either none at all or harsh even abusive consequences. This was confusing for Micah. Deanna and Trent committed to patiently helping Micah break the habits he had developed from living in his previous homes.

You can’t just weed out the bad, you need to fill it with something better.

Deanna and Trent knew they needed help. After previously working with ACH during the adoption of Kaleena, Jeremiah, and Izzy, they didn’t hesitate to call ACH again for support. This time, because they were considered fictive kinship to Micah, they were connected to our Kinship Connections team. A fictive kinship relationship is one that a child has with an individual to whom they are not related but has an emotionally significant relationship with.1 Our Kinship Connections team offers support to families who are caring for children through kinship care (relative/extended family members) and fictive kinship placement (significant emotional relationship).

The Harrison family was connected to Mandy Martin, Kinship Connection Specialist. She was providing support for Deanna and Trent almost around the clock, answering all their questions and taking the time to explain the process to them.  Mandy made daily phone calls, weekly home visits, and conducted research to provide new resources and suggestions for the family during their transition. She also helped them obtain the correct licensing they needed to foster Micah and pursue adoption.

Mandy shares that the beginning was the hardest part, just getting to know Micah. She remembers him being explosive. Mandy knew the best support was to be whatever Micah and the family needed that day. On her visits, if he wanted to play duck-duck-goose or football, they did. If he wanted to just sit and draw that day, they did. She not only cared for Micah but was inclusive to all of his siblings. Deanna shares her experience working with Mandy, “We had a person come into our lives who loved the children in our home, who even before we were licensed helped me with sweet Micah. Mandy is truly an angel who loves these kids and wants to see them shine!” 

Taking in Micah meant Deanna needed to temporarily step away from her full-time job. This allowed her to give him the attention he needed and learn who he was and how to best care for him. Micah craved connection, needed hope, and wanted to be loved. He needed someone to tell him no, to offer him structure, and to show him how to care for himself and others.

Their faith has been what has sustained them, it’s what Micah needed. Micah has been shown appropriate discipline for his actions and choices. Through faith, he was offered the power to overcome his impulses. For Deanna, reflecting on Micah’s healing and progress is remarkable. Micah’s behavior was so destructive he couldn’t attend school. Now he can be in school every day and even has friends. The Harrisons can now enjoy a meal out of the house, take a family vacation, and go to the movies together. They have seen such lasting progress from Micah that he will be graduating early from his current therapeutic program.


On ACH's Mandy Martin: "Mandy is truly an angel who loves these kids and wants to see them shine!"

Deanna Harrison
"You're not a victim. You're victorious."

The Harrisons were not afraid of the interruption that came with taking Micah in, even though they knew that with adopted children already in the home, this would threaten their stability. They trusted in the foundation they had already built with Kaleena, Jeremiah, and Izzy. There would be setbacks, teaching moments, and a lot of patience, but they would respond to each child with the same grace, love, and gentleness, seeing them for who they could be.

Deanna and Trent continue to make a great team. They are both active and involved in their children’s lives. They intimately know each child’s personality and encourage their own individual hobbies. Deanna can tell you with such ease each of her children’s tendencies, triggers, and interests. She knows her kids.

The Harrisons respond to each child with the same grace, love, and gentleness, seeing them for who they could be.

She encourages others, “When you are committed to learning your kids, you learn their needs, and you can provide them an environment where they’ll be successful.” They learned that chaos creates anxiety for Micah. Deanna learned with Micah, “He needed to know what was expected of him. To correct him was to love him.” Micah now has stability, consistency, and something he can depend on. It has been less than a year since Micah moved into the Harrison’s home. People who knew Micah before don’t even recognize him as the same child.

Micah is learning about forgiveness and healing from his past. Deanna shares, “I don’t want him to live the rest of his life angry because of what someone else did to him. I want him to learn how to let go.”

He has officially been adopted into the Harrison family on March 31st. They live each day reminding each other, “You’re not a victim, you’re victorious.”

Kinship Connections

Kinship Connections is a voluntary program that offers support to families who are caring for a relative’s child or children. We don’t want families to be overwhelmed with all the new responsibilities, so we offer services such as support groups, parent education, in-home services, referrals, concrete services, and assistance with licensure or adoption. With ACH, there’s no need to go it alone.


1 Legislative Exchange Council. The Kinship Care and Fictive Kin Reform Act, 2017.